I have just completed 4 weeks of fasting for Ramadan. I am not a muslim. Neither am I a Christian. I am not religious. I am, however, a follower of Jesus. I did this not for religious or pious or even health related reasons. I did it for empathy and love for muslim friends who I have made over the last few years. Friends who like my family are displaced. Some survived the 'route of death', others seized the opportunity whilst it was offered. All are now lost in this new 'home' separated from their loved ones. They are broken. They are strong. They are full of hope. They are sad. I am honoured to be called their brother. Somebody once reached out to our family in a similar way. This Ramadan I decided to join in and fast not quite like my sisters and brother waking up at 2am to eat or give up all fluids. I only went until our evening family meal (call it our "iftar") and being one of the hottest months I thought I would keep myself useful to my family by not dehydrating and kept up fluid intake. I only lapsed for 36 hours. I deliberated for awhile whether I should or not break. But in the end I realised I am not religious about this. So when a special work related friend insisted on taking me (and some of my colleagues) out for lunch I happily(!) accepted and then hours later when my son turned 8 and not wanting to give up the tradition of having breakfast together. I also enjoyed our time and meal together. A few things that happened along the way really caught me: 1. Fasting is inwardly creating a "Sacred Personal Space" Call it what you like. There seems to be a special place that you are allowed "to step into" during a fast. It's not instant either. It takes days. But its a place that only you are in around all the usual-ness of day-to-day. You are in your special place as an observer, as a note taker on the rituals of the everyday. It is quite a delight to be there. You feel special and grateful that you get to sit and watch the world go by. 2. Fasting is difficult in the last few hours Man how I watched that clock and yearned for seconds to turn into minutes and minutes hours. As with most time flying things it was easier the busier you were. I had to keep myself on the go as much as I could. 3. Fasting is easier when drinking Hats off to my Muslim friends. I'm not sure not drinking in weather conditions over the past month makes sense. But I realised that downing a glass of water helped stave off the hunger. On particularly tougher days I found soft sugary drinks also helpful to keep me not only seemingly full but also with a little 'zip' to keep going. 4. Fasting is weird. Especially when trying to explain to other people "Oh!... well... term... good for you!". You try not to let others in on it but it's too difficult. I never realised how rigid we are to the pattern of breakfast, lunch and supper. In some parts of the world eating once is all they have. We have three meals and each has a social significance. Breakfast is the easiest to avoid. Most people have it on the move. Or in their own time. My kids often go down and pour themselves some cereal and happily eat by themselves. you wouldn't miss anyone at breakfast. Then there's lunch and slowly this becomes more social. Or unless you are sitting at your desk eating. But I get invited to eat with others. Our team sometimes breaks and sits together. Other say you fancy grabbing a bite somewhere. It's great. I love it. However, it's weird when you say "I'd love to join you but do you mind if I don't eat". You might as well have said: "up yours" as the response is usually a polite interchange of "oh! That's fine... are you sure... do you mind if I eat..." Then lastly if you miss dinner... in our house it's the one meal that we try to sit around together. Frankly, I'm not prepared to give that up for a whole month... but it's the same for muslims who celebrate iftar together. I like this. I like this a lot. (I particularly liked seeing iftar in war torn Syria- this encouraged me immensely.
5. Fasting is time of gratitude I'm grateful for the past month of fasting. It was an achievement. It was social. It was a deeply reflective time. It allowed me a sense of solidarity with friends of a different faith. Most of all I enjoyed the time I had exploring my own faith and worship. It was... emotional.
I never met my auntie. She died during child birth.
My papa had made special things for her. Cuddly toys. He was looking forward to meeting his younger sister. The umbilical cord wrapped itself around my Foi (the Gujarati word for Dad's sister) and strangled her as she made the final scramble for life on the outside. My papa wept.
Our friends have just had their baby JB. The other night.
He died. Nearly made it out. Nearly.
It happened during birth. His chances to actually get out were super slim. JB had Edwards syndrome. The worst kind. As a family we were praying for our friends and JB over the whole day as he was being induced. We prayed a huge gratitude for knowing, however small the time, JB.
This morning we heard the news. It was just tears and sadness.
Another friend of mine lost one of her twins early on too. I asked her what do you say to people who are going through such a dark place. She said remember. Remember that the child had a name and don't be afraid of saying it.
Thanks JB for the short time that we were able to get to know you. I look forward to one day seeing you. Give my Foi a hug when you see her.
We were able to get away for a few days last week. Our holidays are usually left to the eleventh hour (mainly down to not having the resources to plan). And this one landed in our laps days before we left.
Had a friend's wedding party Saturday night and then straight in the car to arrive in the early hours of Sunday but for that glorious Sunday morning wake up in Teignmouth. It didn't fail to disappoint.
A week of mainly fishing & crabbing. Walking. Talking to locals. Talking to the man in the Fishing shop about crabbing techniques. And catching up with a few friends.
This weekend, I made it again this time with Caleb.
Always dreamt of bringing my boys here. What a moment it was too. From the fast walk from Newsham park as the route from Todmorden was ridden with traffic and motorway closures.
The nerves of not making it were overshadowed by the awe of seeing the first glimpse of the stadium during the 'match day' walk to the arena. A fast one at that.
Then comes the smell of all the merchandise and fast food as you fast approach the gates.
We arrived a day early at my oldest friend's house in Todmorden. We went on walks caught up on the passage of time. Laughed at the new titles, wives & girlfriends, jobs and children that we gained along the way.
During the morning two of us were swimming in a freezing reservoir. Caleb took to rolling down the hill. Covered in mud.
It was all worth it to be with the team that I've supported since Caleb's age with these people and with my boy... and secondary to see this team play against Burnley in this stadium. The score 2-1 to us. The score Caleb predicted too (I was less optimistic at 1-2 to them!)
Thank you anfield for a lovely moment that we will take to the end.
I was expecting a spouting of regulations, new policies and how they would love to help me "but..." from the man across the counter of South Eastern at London Bridge just now.
You see today I made a mistake. I got it wrong. This morning I was running for a train (at High Brooms) and I thought I could pay for the train ride on the train itself. I've done it before. No problem.
My reasoning for running to catch an earlier train: it would give me a vital extra few minutes to see my dad. He's in Guys Hospital. I knew it would cost me an extra £5. I thought it would be worth it.
On the train I found the lady to ask about paying. She said she'd come back to me. She did. She then said that she has to charge me the 'full' amount (£35, nearly double the price).
I was shocked. I asked for grace. She said the very best she could do was give me a single at the cheap day rate and then to go and ask at London Bridge excess fares to see if they would kindly extend the fare to a return trip. That was it and she apologised but that was some consolation for an expensive blunder. I knew this would cost me those vital extra 15 minutes with my dad. She said her hands were tied and already her machine's were giving her warnings about helping me out. She even flipped her pad to show me as she entered my ticket into her machine.
I thanked her and she gave me my ticket.
At London Bridge the excess fares kiosk was closed. I then ran to see my dad.
We had a full a lovely time. He was hooked up to a dialysis machine cleaning his blood. 4 weeks ago he was at death's door. This is nothing short of a miracle to see him alive and fighting for life. So thankful for these precious few minutes with my old man despite the nurse saying he looks younger than me (her reasoning he has more hair)!
I pray with him. Kiss his forehead and leave to catch my train. Thirty minutes was all I could do today. I wish it could be more.
Back at the station I walked in to the ticket office. Slightly nervous. There was a man and a woman. I chose the man to serve me and I start the request for just paying the excess for a fare rather than a whole new one.
The man listened as I explained the situation and rather than ask anything else about what to do he just looked up and said: "I hope your dad's ok."
Fighting back a tear I said he's doing much better. He wasn't to know that we nearly lost him. His continual refusal for dialysis until just weeks ago. The sheer pain of watching and waiting, waiting, waiting for Death's sythe to strike.
He continued: My step mum died in there. She missed a session. Couldn't make it. I'm sure they're doing a great job. Hope he's ok.
He then said it would be 10p more for the fare extension.
Thank you South Eastern for being so much more today than just a rail company.